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Doris Duke Shangri La is a unique and fascinating museum located in Honolulu, Hawaii. Officially known as the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design, it houses an impressive collection of Islamic art from around the world. Visitors are invited to explore this extraordinary collection and discover how these works of art have been shaped by their cultural contexts and traditions over centuries. The museum features interactive exhibits designed to engage both adults and children alike in learning more about Islamic culture through its artwork.

With its stunning setting on Diamond Head overlooking Waikiki Beach, Doris Duke’s Shangri La Hawaii offers a truly unforgettable experience for all who visit. Here we will discuss why this stunning estate is such a popular spot for tourists, appreciate its beauty, and gain an understanding of the rich cultural heritage it holds within its walls.


  • Immerse in the history of Shangri La, built by tobacco heiress Doris Duke.
  • The self-guided tour offers approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes of unforgettable experience.
  • Enjoy the stunning architectural design and lush tropical gardens that make it a popular spot for visitors.
  • Learn more about different cultures through Doris Duke’s educational events.


The story of Doris Duke’s Shangri La began when she purchased the land on Diamond Head Road at $100,000 in 1935. The famous estate was designed to reflect Doris Duke’s admiration for South Asia, the Middle East, and South Africa’s art and architecture during her travels with her husband.

Who is Doris Duke?

Doris Duke (1912-1993) was an American heiress, philanthropist, and art collector. She was the daughter of tobacco and hydroelectric power magnate James Buchanan Duke. Upon her father’s passing in 1925, she inherited a $100 million fortune and was often called “The Richest Girl in The World”. Duke was an avid traveler from a young age and throughout her life explored over 60 countries, including India which inspired her lifelong passion for Islamic art. 

The Famous Doris Duke Shangri La Hawaiian Mansion

When Doris Duke and James Cromwell first arrived in Honolulu in 1935, they became friends with the prominent Native Hawaiian family Kahanamoku. Together with architect Marion Sims Wyeth, Duke built Shangri La around the pieces of art she had amassed while traveling. The construction was completed in 1938 at $1 million – an astronomical sum at the time! Initially measuring roughly 14,000 square feet, it took 250 people due to numerous revisions to the blueprints. She ordered interiors from modern craftspeople in India and the Middle East, had them delivered to Honolulu, and had them rebuilt there.

Hale Kapu, which means Forbidden House, was Doris’ original name for her home. But in a letter from June 1938 to his banking friend Bill Cross, Cromwell referred to the residence as Shangri La. Shangri La is unrelated to Hawaiian culture or language but is undoubtedly more hospitable. Doris quickly became engrossed in the design of her new home. Since Shangri La opened to the public in 2002, its collection of modern artwork has progressively expanded.  Shangri La has become a popular tourist destination for those wishing to explore its unique architectural style or view its vast array of artifacts.

Doris Duke’s Legacy

Throughout her life, Duke also supported numerous charities such as Planned Parenthood and WWF among others. She created the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art in 1965 which has since operated out of Shangri La until 2017. Through this foundation, she donated $50 million towards creating an educational center at Shangri La focused on Islamic art and culture.

Upon her death in 1993 at age 80, Doris left behind a legacy of Shangri La Hawaii being managed as a museum open to public visits. In 1996, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation was established with a $1 billion endowment to support cultural organizations around the world, developing underprivileged communities in Hawaii, conservation initiatives in Africa and Asia, medical research into chronic illnesses such as cancer, child abuse prevention programs across America, and projects promoting racial tolerance worldwide.

With the multitude of special programs and initiatives, generations are still benefiting from the generosity of this remarkable woman who used her wealth for good causes around the world. The home is now preserved as an educational center and museum, offering tours of its grounds and hosting events that celebrate Islamic culture

Things to Do

Today, Doris Duke Shangri-La serves as both a museum and an educational center for visitors to explore. From its unique architecture to its beautiful grounds, this historic site has something for everyone to enjoy.

Explore The Doris Duke Shangri-La Museum

In 2002 Shangri-La was opened to the public as a Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design with its nearly 4500 objects including paintings, sculptures, and other works of art across various media. The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) presently owns and runs this public museum.

The self-guided tour of the property allows you to explore the various rooms and courtyards that makeup Doris Duke’s home. Here you will find an impressive collection of artifacts and artworks from around the world, making for a truly unique experience. Witness the beauty of the estate which has been altered over time to include more exterior elements. Inside the manor house are a variety of rooms decorated with exquisite Islamic art including wall coverings, tile work, wood carvings, and textiles imported from Morocco and Syria.

Furthermore, there are plenty of photo opportunities to take advantage of while exploring the beauty of Doris Duke Shangri La’s grounds. Spend some time walking around its gardens or wander through its courtyard where you’ll find several outdoor sitting areas. The landscape features an outdoor terrace, pool, garden court, pavilion, Turkish bath building, water cascade, and fountains surrounded by lush foliage.

Take Part in Doris Duke Educational Activities

Doris Duke Shangri La Hawaii offers a wide variety of educational events and seminars throughout the year. You can attend lectures, workshops, and performances that dive into various aspects of Islamic culture and art history.

During these events, you will learn how Doris Duke’s philanthropic efforts helped shape Shangri La’s educational mission while gaining a deeper understanding of the estate. Workshops are also offered so you can get closer to artifacts from Doris Duke’s collection.

Another popular event at Doris Duke Shangri La is their seasonal film series which allows you to watch films related to Islamic culture in a unique outdoor setting on the grounds. This event is open to all ages and provides an engaging way for guests to further appreciate Islamic culture while learning more about the estate’s rich history.

The entire Shangri La tour experience, including check-in, transportation, and self-guided exploration, lasts about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The museum doesn’t open until 10 AM.  Tickets range from $20 to $25. Whatever activity you decide to partake in, Doris Duke Shangri La provides an unforgettable experience that celebrates both its history and the present state as a museum and educational center.

Tips for First-Time Visitors

  • The museum doesn’t open until 10AM. Since there isn’t really any place nearby to use the restroom before you depart for Shangri La, go before you check out of your hotel.
  • Ticket reservations are required.
  • Make sure to bring a camera for amazing photos.
  • Wear comfortable shoes as there is plenty of walking around the grounds.
  • Dress appropriately when visiting inside buildings on the property.
  • Don’t forget to check out special events hosted at Doris Duke Shangri La.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Doris Duke Shangri La Hawaii is a historic property located in Honolulu, Hawaii by tobacco heiress Doris Duke.

With controlled access to the grounds, each tour reservation lasts about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The former residence of Doris Duke is located close to Diamond Head and just outside Honolulu, Hawaii.

Two trusts established by her father, James Buchanan Duke, in 1917 and 1924, had Duke as the life beneficiary.

She received an estimated $100 million in trust when she was 13 years old in 1925 from her father.

American tobacco heiress and philanthropist Doris Duke lived in New York City and had a net worth of $5.3 billion at the time of her death in 1993.

How To Get To Doris Duke Shangri La Hawaii 

You can take advantage of the public transportation system on Oahu such as TheBus routes 19 or 20 for two dollars one way. From Waikiki Beach, take bus number 19 eastbound to Diamond Head Road at Puu Panini Street and transfer to Bus number 20 eastbound to Aukai Avenue at Kalakaua Avenue. The entire journey from Waikiki Beach should take roughly 30 minutes depending on traffic.

The property is only accessible by shuttle and is situated in a small quiet neighborhood close to Diamond Head. Tours depart at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. from the Honolulu Museum of Art, where you’ll be shuttled back and forth between Shangri La.

Experience Diverse Culture at Doris Duke Shangri La!

Doris Duke Shangri La Hawaii is an impressive landmark that attracts thousands of visitors each year from all around the world. Come and appreciate its unique design and beauty while learning more about the culture and its presence in Hawaii. Doris Duke Shangri La Hawaii is well worth a visit for its exquisite architecture and educational opportunities. Overall this historically significant estate offers an unforgettable experience that’s sure to delight all who visit it!